Ask Yourself "Why?"

A co-worker recently told me that I lead by meetings.

I had to stop and think about that for a minute.  It was true but I had to unpack why.  In fact, my next thought was “isn’t that the correct way to lead?”

I was taught in the early days of my career that proper business etiquette was to make an appointment with co-workers whom you needed input from.  “Pop in” meetings – those unannounced drop ins where you hijack 30 minutes of someone’s time – were highly discouraged in my former work culture.  And not only did you need to schedule a meeting with someone if your conversation would require more than a quick exchange, but you also had to provide an agenda and purpose for every meeting request.

That probably seems a little daunting but what it taught me was the how to respect and value the time of others.  It was a way of esteeming others above ourselves.  The underlying theme was that you were being selfish if you hijacked another person’s work flow for your own urgent needs.

I naive assumed that everyone works like this… that this was universal work etiquette.

But just like I am known to lead by meetings, others prefer to lead by pop-ins.  Perhaps to them it shows more relational interest and doesn’t feel so stuffy and corporate-like.

The point is that it’s important to understand how you have developed your leadership style.  Is it your preferred style or one that was taught to you or imposed upon you in the early days of your career?  My meeting style was so ingrained in me early on that I’m doing some unpacking of it to see what parts of it are my own actual preferences and which are just imposed expectations that are irrelevant in my current context.

All of this forms an important question that we as leaders must constantly be asking ourselves and our teams.  Why?

Why do you lead, manage, or operate the way that you do? 

Is there a better way or a different way that would be effective with your current team?

Do you subconsciously lead from a style or paradigm that you were taught early in your career?  Is there any merit to revisiting that style in your current context? 

What about you?  Is there anything you are doing in your leadership that you need to ask yourself “why?” you’re doing it the way you’re doing it?

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One comment

  • Eleanor Pierce August 22, 2012  

    That’s interesting. I wonder if it was meant as a criticism? The best boss I ever had met with each staff member she supervised once a week to touch base. I loved it. I’d prefer to know when we’re going to be discussing things, and what.